We all know that Oxy has had a tumultuous past with sexual assault. I remember when I was on a tour of the school as a senior in high school, and many parents were asking about how the school handled sexual assault cases. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to the very scripted answers that our tour guide was giving, but I do remember that she said she felt safe on campus and that there were plenty of resources to help survivors of sexual assault navigate their trauma. Those words didn’t mean much to me at the time, but now that I’ve been at Oxy for four years, I can call her bluff.
Don’t get me wrong, Oxy does have resources for survivors, but I’m not sure I would choose “plenty” as a description of those resources. We have our Title IX office, Emmons and Project S.A.F.E., but to say that we have plenty of resources would mean that we have gone above and beyond expectations. I have gotten to know Title IX Coordinator Jenn Broomfield, Assistant Director of Counseling Jenny Heetderks and Project S.A.F.E. Senior Manager and Survivor Advocate Marianne Frapwell during my time here, and I am truly grateful for the relationships that I have formed with each of them. The work that they do is extremely important, but it is unfair to expect that they alone can get every survivor on this campus through their healing process.
I am a survivor. Through my journey of healing and recovery, I have ventured to all three offices, but something inside me said that I needed more than just them. I needed to hear from people who were going through the same things I was. I needed to hear that recovery wasn’t going be easy from someone who was also going through the process. Most importantly, I needed to hear that there was a light at the end of the tunnel from someone who had found it; I needed other students to be a part of my healing process.
While I was abroad my junior year, I decided that I was going to create a resource for another survivors. Once my senior year started, I told Jenny that I wanted to create an event where survivors can share their stories of recovery and healing. Together with Marianne Frapwell, we began to create Reclaiming Their Stories, an event centered around survivors reclaiming their narrative and sharing how they’ve healed.
Apart from this event, the only other that provides an outlet for survivors is Take Back the Night, which is meant to be intimate and shared with those closest to the survivor. It takes place in the dark of the night at the Greek Bowl so that survivors can maintain a sense of anonymity. Reclaiming Their Stories, however, is meant for the entire Oxy community. We have three amazing survivors opening themselves up and sharing feelings that are often not talked about. This event serves two purposes: to empower other survivors and to show everyone else how strong we truly are. Recovering from sexual assault is no joke. It’s painful and terrifying, but this is the type of discourse that we need at this school. Arguing with an anonymous poster on Oxy Confessions might be nice for the ego of a so-called ally, but it does absolutely nothing to help the survivors that struggle day in and day out. This event is the time for those that call themselves allies to come in, be quiet and listen to people’s stories. I hope that when they listen to their schoolmates who have gone through trauma, they will adjust their actions accordingly.
I appreciate that people on this campus are upset about rape culture and how it is perpetuated, but they must also be mindful of how they too perpetuate it. Unfortunately, I hear way more conversations about rapists than I do about survivors. If our goal is to support and empower survivors, yet we constantly spend our time talking about the rapist, we give our power to the wrong people. In order to combat that, this event is solely focused on survivors reclaiming agency over their stories. While they may mention some of the harmful things that the perpetrators did, the perpetrators themselves will not be the focus. It is time for us, as a school and as a country, to move past putting the spotlight on those that have caused the damage and instead turn it to those that are working so hard to repair their lives.
Reclaiming Their Stories is scheduled for Monday, April 1 at 7:00 p.m. in Choi Auditorium.
Lindsey Ingram is a senior Comparative Literature and Culture and economics double major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.